Disclaimer: Unfortunately I do not own anything Dissidia or Final Fantasy related. Can you imagine if I did? There would have been a lot more cutscenes that's for sure! Not to take away from Square Enix, of course, who did an awesome job with these games.

A/N: Welcome to my...let me check for a minute here...ah yes, my sixth Dissidia fanfiction story! Before I say anything else, credit for the idea of this fic goes to LegendofLegaia on the Gamefaqs board for coming up with the idea and to bubbax for giving me the motivation to write it. Now...this fic is the biggest failure of a fic I've ever written. It was supposed to fit with canon, but well...just read it, I'm too depressed to explain. If you know your Dissidian history and the timeline, you'll know exactly why the fic is a failure, which saves me from having to explain, which I don't have the heart to do anyways. Besides, it will sort of be explained in the fic itself anyways. Because of this epic failure on my part, this fic is now classified as an AU/parody style fic.

Note: This fic is dedicated to all my favorite boys (and a couple of girls) on the Duodecim Gamefaqs board. Love you all!

For Gilgamesh, it's Morphing Time?

"Enough expository banter. It's time we fight like men. And ladies. And ladies who dress like men. For Gilgamesh...IT IS MORPHING TIME!" -Gilgamesh (Final Fantasy V)

Amidst the ruins of Castle Cornelia, the fiery pits of Mount Gulg, and the wintery landscape of the Elven Snowfield, one could almost hear the faint whispers of all the fallen warriors who had dedicated both their lives and their fighting abilities to the will of Cosmos lingering on the cool afternoon breeze, if one chose to listen for their voices, that is, but regrettably their efforts have been long forgotten in the pages of Final Fantasy history, as blasphemous at that may be.

This is due to what is generally referred to as the purification ritual. Or at least, this is what should have happened, but because the author is an idiot and forgot that the encounters with Gilgamesh actually take place in a cycle before the twelfth cycle, the heroes of this story still remember him and what happened when they shouldn't, and the encounters with Gilgamesh take place only mere weeks ago instead of at least a whole cycle. The author did attempt to fix this, but upon doing so she realized the whole story would have to be scrapped, and that her baby would need to be sacrificed for the sake of canon (or placed in an earlier cycle, which would force her to take Tifa out of the story since the female warrior only appeared in the twelfth cycle. What? Sacrifice Tifa, who is a central part of the fic? I think not!)

The author's answer to this epic dilemma? "Aw, screw canon. I've disgraced myself in the world of fanfiction, and now I must face my shame proudly and with honour!"

The author is sad...but she digresses. We were talking about Dissidia, were we not?

Alas, it is a sad tale of hope and despair, the fine line between the mysterious forces of light and darkness blurring until it has become almost impossible to tell where one of those awe inspiring powers begins and the other ends, leaving in their wake a world teetering on the brink of destruction.

And endless struggle of conflict and disorder, a battle of good verses evil. A frantic search for the crystals in the name of those heroes who, if we're going by Final Fantasy I terms, are known as the 'bringers of light.' (Except perhaps for that shady Jecht, who may or may not necessarily be so bad depending on how you look at it.) It is here under the sharp eyes of the omnipresent being known as the Great Will where the forces of harmony and discord collide in a war of epic proportions, both sides refusing to back down or to admit that someone else's weapon is bigger and cooler looking than theirs. Never mind the hairstyles. We're not even going to get into that.

This battle between harmony and discord is extremely epic as wars go. Just ask the Warrior of Light, who will duly note the epicness of this war with a line or two dedicated to the awesome power of light. It is a war that will dictate the fate of all those known fondly by male and female fans alike as the warriors of harmony.

That's right. It is the war to end all wars.

Or something along those lines. At least until the thirteenth war of the cycle begins, but that's a story for another day.

Unaware that his fate was thus being decided by Square Enix and dutifully recorded on UMD for the enjoyment of millions of fans around the world, the treasure hunting mimic warrior known fondly as Bartz Klauser glanced around curiously at his new surroundings, unsure yet of just what to make of this current gateway he had stepped into only a moment ago with four of his fellow warriors. Over the course of his travels so far, he had explored many strange gateways, from the crystal walls of Pandemonium to the castle ruins of the Rift, but with regards to this current gateway he found himself in, which was by far the most peculiar gateway he'd seen yet in his wanderings, he was at a loss of what to think. It was known simply to the warriors passing through as Orphan's Cradle, whatever that was supposed to mean, and as Bartz was quick to discover, it was quite noticeably...ah...pink in nature.

Orphan's Cradle was made up of large, pale pink circular platforms and fuchsia pink walkways hovering over a dark abyss, and though the platforms themselves were stationary, as were the salmon coloured stairways and pillars adding to the decor, the surrounding atmosphere appeared to be constantly in motion, which could on occasion distort your sense of reality if you weren't careful to keep your wits about you at all times. In the distance, the walls, (if you could call them that) appeared to be transparent in nature, revealing thick gray clouds hovering in the distance. The clouds were occasionally hidden from view by the pink panels that made up the 'walls', and to any modern day warrior they resembled what looked like a bunch of futuristic pink grids that would make up the main core of any electronic device seen in a world like the one Squall or Lightning seemed to come from. The panels were floating in the sky of their own accord while the dark clouds hovered on the distant horizon, giving the gateway a mysterious feel to it.

Speeding around the circular platforms like fast moving trains traveling along some unseen hidden track were strange rectangular structures that were also pale pink in colour, and they had smaller, dark pink squares littering their surfaces. All of the floating rectangles appeared to be heading towards a strange pinkish gray, circular vortex hovering in the distance. It was massive in size and even the very wind itself was blowing briskly in that direction. The vortex appeared to be spinning counterclockwise, and there were several liquid metal spheres hovering around it, though the spheres themselves did not appear to be affected by the magnetism of the vortex, which appeared to be sucking the pink rectangles into its depths, most likely never to be seen again. It was a wonder the entire gateway didn't fold in on itself and get sucked into what to Bartz looked like a pink version of a black hole, and even more surprising was the fact that it didn't try to swallow the warriors who were intruding inside the gateway.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. None of these places make any kind of sense to me.

Giving the vortex one last inquisitive look, Bartz promptly turned his back on it and proceeded to gaze expectantly at his companions, all of whom were taking a moment to study the gateway themselves, their expressions ranging from curious to amused, and even to boredom. (The last one coming from one Squall Leonhart.)

Bartz had been traveling with Zidane, Squall, and Vaan for some time now, having only parted ways with them once during that time in which he'd had a brief encounter with a strange man in a red hood claiming to be his rival. After their somewhat less than legendary duel, the swordsman calling himself...what had his name been again? Gilgamar? Gilgamen? Whatever it was, Gilga-something or other had disappeared back into the Rift, leaving Bartz to stare after him in wonder and amusement. Oddly enough, though, he had felt a strong sense of forgetting something that was fairly important.

The man had seemed familiar somehow, but despite having had time to think over a past he couldn't remember all that much, Bartz still could not figure out where he might have seen his 'rival' before.

Could he be from my past? I don't know...

After encountering the red-hooded swordsman, Bartz had once again joined up with Zidane, Squall, and Vaan, and though he probably should have said something, in the end he had chosen not to mention the incident to his comrades, feeling it was pointless to do so since he didn't understand just exactly what had happened himself as of yet.

Thinking back on his charismatic 'rival' now, though, Bartz suddenly remembered that several weeks ago Zidane had asked him if he knew a scary looking guy wearing a red hood. Could Zidane and the others have possibly run into Gilga-whatever his name was while he had left them briefly to check up on a suspicious looking treasure chest they had passed earlier?

Na, it couldn't have been the same guy. Then again, how many scary looking guys wearing red hoods can there be in this world? Well, if I ever do see him again, I'll ask the others, but until then I'd better stay focused on finding a way out of this gateway. I'm really not liking that dark pit below me. Why do so many gateways always have to be so high up? Solid ground must be going out of style or something...

"Bartz? Bartz, did you hear me?"


Shaking his head to clear it, Bartz suddenly became aware of a female voice shouting directly into his ear, and turning to face the speaker he found himself gazing at the feisty and talented warrior known as Tifa Lockhart. Her warm gaze sparkled beautifully in the luminous glow of the gateway, the dark depths or her deep brown eyes watching him curiously and the smile on her pretty face showing off her playful sense of humour.

Bartz and his fellow male warriors had encountered Tifa in their travels only the day before after she had apparently broken away from another group of their comrades for reasons she had yet to explain, and having gotten bored with traveling by herself, she had decided to tag along with them for a little while, at least until her journey led her on another path that diverted from their own.

"Sorry, Tifa, what were you saying again?" Bartz asked, giving the female warrior a rather sheepish smile.

Tifa tilted her head to the side to study him for a moment, and clasping her hands together behind her back, she said, "I was just saying to the others that I think it's time we stopped and rested for a bit. We've been traveling since this morning without a single break, and I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure my legs are starting to cramp up."

"Now you're starting to sound like Laguna," Vaan joked, giving Tifa a friendly nudge to the ribs.

"I, for one, agree wholeheartedly with the beautiful and daring Tifa here," Zidane announced with a flourish, sliding up next to Vaan and giving the female warrior his most charming smile. "Like you said, Tifa, we haven't had a break all day and let's face it, all this running around we've been doing hasn't exactly been all that productive. We didn't even find a single decent treasure to show for our efforts and I'm starting to lose my second wind. Forget about my legs. Even my tail feels like it's starting to cramp."

"If you and Bartz would walk like the rest of us instead of running off all over the place you wouldn't waste so much energy on your treasure hunting instead of saving it to expend on your enemies," Squall said unsympathetically, fixing the Genome with a hard stare. "Which, by the way, would be a lot more productive."

"Typical, coming from you," Zidane teased, ignoring Squall's penetrating blue gaze. "No offence, but you need to lighten up once in a while. Since we're here and all we might as well have some fun, right?"


Giving up on Squall as a hopeless case, Zidane instead turned to Vaan for support, his arm going around the Dalmascan thief's waist and a mischievous sparkle twinkling in his expressive blue eyes. "You're with me on this one, right Vaan?"

Vaan shrugged, looking as if he could care less either way. "Doesn't matter to me what we do."

"Not exactly the answer I was hoping for, but better than nothing," Zidane replied cheerfully, giving Squall a triumphant look.

Squall's response was to simply ignore Zidane, and watching his fellow warriors with interest, Bartz had to smile. Upon meeting Zidane, Bartz had hit if off with the golden-haired thief almost before they'd even said their first words to each other, but Squall was a different story. The gunblade wielding warrior was a loner by nature, and though his attitude was often cool and aloof, Bartz had a feeling that somehow, together with Zidane, the two of them would find a way to put a few cracks in Squall's iron will and cold exterior. He was not going to allow himself to be dissuaded by Squall's standoffish attitude and uncaring demeanor. Bartz had always been an easygoing person by nature, and he wasn't about to let a little thing like Squall's lack of social skills dampen his spirits.

Time and patience, but until then...

"Bartz, you're ready for a break, right?" Zidane asked, pouncing on him and tugging on his arm to get his attention. Glancing down at the Genome, who was gazing up at him with pleading eyes, Bartz smiled at his friend's obvious attempt to charm him into joining his cause. "I guess all those treasure chests can wait for a bit."

"I knew you'd see it my way!" Zidane cheered, pumping a fist into the air in victory. "Looks like you're outnumbered, Squall."

"Nobody asked me either way," Squall said blandly, his expression refusing to alter from its usual indifferent mask. "We're not stopping until we get out of this gateway first. There's no telling what might happen in here if we get lazy and stop paying attention to our surroundings."

"You would say that," Zidane grumbled, his tail drooping slightly as he made a face at Squall.

Laughing, Bartz untangled himself from both Zidane himself and the golden-haired thief's spirited tail, and pointing up ahead, he said, "Let's keep moving then, shall we?"

The group started off again, Zidane in the lead, his wayward tail swaying gently back and forth as he walked, and racing to catch up to him, Bartz said, "You know, I wonder where that huge vortex leads to."

"I don't think I really want to know," Zidane laughed, winking in that playful way of his.

"Whatever might be on the other side, it can't be much worse than here," Vaan called up to them, his voice echoing faintly in the gateway.

Vaan was walking behind them with Squall and Tifa, and brushing her long, dark hair back over her shoulder, Tifa said, "Speaking of this place, don't you guys think it's a little too quiet in here?"

"Now that you mention it, we should have been attacked at least once by now," Vaan admitted, gazing thoughtfully at the clouds in the distance.

"Stay on your guard," Squall warned, his hard to read gaze narrowing in concentration. "It could be a trap."

"You think everything's a trap," Zidane replied, rolling his eyes. "Come on, Bartz, let's go scout ahead."

Squall frowned at this, and grabbing Zidane's arm before the Genome could take off, he said in a tone that was meant to be obeyed, "Don't get too far ahead of us. Stay where we can see you."

"Relax, would you? Let's go, Bartz."

The two of them raced side by side up a set of pale pink stairs, but they'd only moved several platforms farther along than their comrades when Zidane suddenly halted in mid-step, his blue gaze squinting up ahead to another circular platform with tall pillars sprouting from its pink surface. "Hey, Bartz, did you see that?"

"See what?" Bartz asked, squinting himself but seeing nothing out of the ordinary.

"I thought I saw something up ahead. It looked...I don't know, kinda like dark fog floating up from the ground."

Bartz raised his eyebrows at this, and tugging on Zidane's arm, he said, "Well, why don't we go take a look?"

The two of them started off again, and noticing their sudden hasty movements, Tifa called after them, "Hey, where are two going?"

"Wait up!" Vaan protested, chasing after them.

Bartz turned to glance over his shoulder, and waving to the others, he called back, "Zidane thinks he spotted something strange up ahead. Come on!"

Squall's response was to place his fingers against his forehead in a show of obvious annoyance, and he muttered something under his breath that Tifa must have heard because she smiled in amusement and grabbed the stoic warrior's arm, tugging lightly on the aforementioned appendage to get him moving. Squall allowed Tifa to drag him after Vaan, but he didn't look any too pleased about the whole affair.

Which wasn't really all that surprising, coming from Squall, that is.

His curiosity getting the better of him, Bartz quickly raced up another set of stairs, and overtaking Zidane he was the first to reach the platform the golden-haired thief had indicated earlier. What he saw made him stop in his tracks, much like Zidane had earlier. There in the center of the platform was what did indeed look like a swirling pit of dark fog, which was rising up from the platform's pink surface. It almost looked like a dark portal with white, slightly bluish fog circling in the air around it.

"Looks like we've got company," Squall said shortly, summoning his gunblade and holding it out in front of him, his feet already moving into a battle stance.

"What is it?" Tifa inquired with interest, putting up her fists in expectation of a fight. "I've never seen anything like it before."

Bartz studied the portal for a moment in silence, and scratching the back of his head, he said, "You know, it looks kind of familiar. I think I might have seen something like it before."

"Seriously?" Zidane said skeptically, his hands coming up to rest on his hips. Unlike the others, the Genome hadn't summoned his weapons. Instead, he merely stood there staring at the portal in fascination, a look of intense curiosity on his handsome face.

"Look out!" Vaan suddenly shouted, pointing his weapon at the portal. "Whatever might be hiding in that thing, here it comes!"

Bartz jumped back a few paces as a huge hulking form suddenly materialized out of the dark pit, and to his surprise and amusement, he found himself standing face to face with the red-hooded Gilga-what's his name from earlier.

Only...there was something slightly off about him...

"Ah ha, success!" the new arrival cried dramatically, striking a rather interesting pose. "Well, well, Bartz, it seems you cannot escape from me, your fated rival! It is I, Gilgamesh! Back from that cursed Rift to challenge you once again! At last, this time my exile has truly come to an-"

"Hey, it's him again!" Vaan interrupted, lowering his weapon and rubbing his nose in an offhand sort of way, a smile on his face.

"I knew it," Squall said bluntly, dropping his battle stance and carelessly hefting his gunblade over his shoulder, completely unconcerned over the so-called Gilgamesh and his ability to put up a decent fight.

"What are you talking about, Squall?" Zidane asked, clearly confused.

"The last time we ran into him I was sure he'd said the name Bartz. Looks like I was right after all."

"But, Bartz...you said you didn't know a big, scary guy wearing a red hood," Zidane protested, scratching the back of his blond head in a show of uncertainty.

Bartz crossed his arms over his chest, a thoughtful look overtaking his handsome features. "I thought I didn't, but after dueling against him earlier I have to admit, he does seem kind of familiar."

"Wait, you fought against him?" Tifa asked curiously, lowering her fists slightly.

"This is news to us," Vaan added, exchanging a meaningful look with Zidane.

"Yeah, it was when I left you guys behind for a bit to check out that treasure Zidane was sure we'd missed in the Lunar Subterrane. Only somehow I ended up in that place with the floating castles. You know, the one everyone calls the Rift, and that's where I met up with this guy. He seemed to know me, but..."

"Hey, be silent Bartz and friends of Bartz! I'm trying to make a speech here!" Gilgamesh cut in, pointing an accusing finger at the five rather confused looking warriors of harmony, who were all staring at him in various stages of not caring what he was saying. "It is only natural that you should be stunned into silence by my shocking reappearance. How I have dreamed of this moment! At long last I once again stand before my chosen rival to continue our duel! It is a battle that will be recorded in the pages of history as the greatest duel to have ever taken place, and it shall be known as the greatest rivalry of all time!"

Bartz, feeling slightly lost by this speech, sheepishly scratched his medium brown hair and said, "Uh, what do you mean 'at long last?' We saw each other not that long ago."

"Bartz!" Gilgamesh cried with feeling, ignoring the mimic warrior's words completely. "Let us once more cross swords in an epic battle of trial and adversity! I warn you, though, it will not be easy, for I am not the Gilgamesh you remember!"

"That's what you said the last time we fought, but really I don't remember any Gilgamesh, much less the one standing before me right now."

There's definitely something not quite right about him, but what is it? I can't quite put my finger on it...

"I promised you that I would return, and now here I stand before you, after having faced the perils of the Rift! Victory will be mine at long last! Come, my dear Bartz, let us duel!"

And that was when it hit Bartz like a bucket of cold water splashed over his head. The outfit Gilgamesh was wearing was most certainly not the same outfit he had been clad in during their last duel, and apparently his fellow comrades must have finally noticed as well because all of them were suddenly staring at Gilgamesh with a mixture of shock, horror, confusion, amusement, and utter disbelief.

Except for Squall, who merely looked as stone-faced as he always did, bizarre outfits notwithstanding.

Due to the fact that it appeared as if the other warriors of harmony had become momentarily speechless, not surprisingly it was Squall who finally took it upon himself to speak, and there was a rather disgusted edge to his voice, which the red-hooded swordsman didn't seem to notice. "You, Gilgamesh, was it? What exactly are you wearing?"

Against his will, Bartz took a closer look at Gilgamesh's outfit, and raising his eyebrows he allowed himself a hesitant smile. He'd been so distracted by his so-called rival's dramatic entrance and thwarted attempt at a lengthy speech that at first he had failed to notice the supposedly legendary swordsman's new attire, but now that he had, he couldn't seem to stop staring at it in horrid fascination.

Instead of his usual outfit, Gilgamesh was wearing a short black mini-skirt, a white t-shirt showing off his muscled abs, brown suspenders, combat boots, and fingerless gloves. In fact, it was an outfit that looked suspiciously like...

"Hey, those are my clothes!" Tifa accused, a frown overtaking her pretty features.

Indeed, Gilgamesh was wearing an exact replica of Tifa's outfit proportioned to his size and stature, but unlike the female warrior, it did nothing for his figure, and no doubt it was sure to scare any little children unfortunate enough to see him in that getup, if any ever happened to come across the wandering swordsman by chance. The overall effect was quite unflattering, and staring at him Bartz felt a strong desire to cover his eyes.

"I'm never going to look at female clothing the same way again," Zidane moaned, doing what Bartz seemed unable to do and slapping his hands over his impish blue eyes.

"Well, you have to admit, he's got style and a decent sense of fashion," Tifa offered, staring to smile. "Even if it doesn't work so well on him exactly..."

"What are you all babbling about?" Gilgamesh demanded, striking another pose that nearly sent Zidane, who was peeking between his fingers, running for cover. Really, they did not need to know what was under that mini-skirt. "Having second thoughts now that are fated duel is so close at hand?"

Bartz shook his head, denying his so-called rival's accusations. "No, that's not it..."

"Uh, Gilgamesh, have you by any chance looked at yourself in a mirror lately?" Vaan cut in, trying and failing miserably not to laugh.

"What is this, some kind of trick to catch me off guard?" Gilgamesh asked suspiciously.

"No," Squall snorted. "Look at yourself."

Gilgamesh glanced down at his own body, and letting out a yelp of surprise, he jumped about five feet in the air before landing ungracefully on the circular platform in a rather undignified position, one that sent all the warriors scrambling to cover their eyes.

Except for Squall, who continued to gaze coldly at Gilgamesh, completely unaffected by the terrible effects of the mini-skirt.

"What trickery is this?" Gilgamesh muttered to himself, leaping ungracefully to his feet. "Could this once again be a side effect of that dastardly Rift?"

"As much as I hate to admit it, I gotta say...That was...uh...one hell of an entrance," Zidane replied, looking rather indignant over the whole fiasco. He seemed to be taking Gilgamesh's new attire as a personal insult. Not surprisingly, being the self-proclaimed ladies man that he was.

"Really, an effect of the Rift? I don't know about that," Tifa said slowly, crossing her arms over her ample chest.

"Some kind of new battle tactic?" Vaan suggested, shrugging his shoulders. "I guess it could work to distract your enemies. It's working on us, isn't it?"

"A man's clothes do not make the man!" Gilgamesh declared, gesturing frantically with his hands. "Or would that be a woman's clothes do not make the man? Ah, forget it. Never mind the outfit! Fight me, Bartz!"

Bartz made his way over to Zidane, and giving his fellow treasure hunting companion a sympathetic pat on the back, he said apologetically, "I'm sorry, but...as much as I'd love to battle you, I really can't take you seriously in that outfit."

"Not only that, but if you want to fight Bartz, you're going to have to deal with the rest of us as well," Squall said coldly, ignoring Gilgamesh's outfit completely and pointing his gunblade at the uniquely dressed swordsman.

Bartz had to admit, he was quite impressed. Squall definitely knew how to keep his cool in all types of situations. Perhaps when there was time for it, he would ask Squall to teach him a few tips. If Squall would humour him, that is. Which was highly unlikely.

"Five on one, you say?" Gilgamesh replied in a boastful tone, completely forgetting about his questionable attire. "I like those odds. The great Gilgamesh could never be defeated by a mere group of worms such as yourselves. And once you have suffered defeat, then my fated duel with Bartz shall commence!"

"You sure know how to talk big for someone who has yet to prove he can actually fight! And in that outfit, no less!" Zidane shot back, summoning his Mage Mashers and dropping into an offensive crouch. "I don't care who you are or how legendary your name is! You're going to pay for ruining all my fantasies about Tifa!"

"What was that, monkey boy?" Tifa replied, raising her fist in a threatening sort of manner, her knuckles coming dangerously close to Zidane's head.

"Lightning! I meant Light!" Zidane yelped, cowering behind an amused Vaan, who tried valiantly to disentangle himself from the Genome and succeeded only in earning himself a reproachful whack in the ribs, courtesy of Zidane's energetic tail.

"If it's a fight you want, then stop talking and bring it," Squall said shortly, stepping calmly around Zidane and Vaan, his gunblade held at the ready.

Tifa took her place beside Squall, her dark hair swaying in the breeze, and cracking her knuckles, she said, " Well, this should be fun."

"Don't disappoint us now!" Vaan added, succeeding at last in separating himself from Zidane.

Bartz quickly took his place next to Vaan, and a severely traumatized Zidane pushed his way to the front of the group, his Mage Mashers gleaming in the illuminating pale pink glow of Orphan's Cradle. "Time to drop the curtain on your boring monologue, you big lout!"

"Blasphemy, this is only the second act!" Gilgamesh protested, clearly affronted by Zidane's insult.

"Like that matters anymore. You're putting the audience to sleep, and last time I checked, nobody made you the star of this theatrical performance."

"Definitely a supporting role," Vaan agreed, nodding his head firmly for emphasis.

"Hey...I just thought of something. If he's not the leading man, or woman, then...who is?" Tifa interjected, straightening up and slowly unclenching her fists.

For a moment everyone merely stared at each other in confusion, (except for Squall, of course, who was starting to look rather impatient by this time) and shrugging, Bartz offered, "The Warrior of Light?"

"Cosmos maybe?" Vaan suggested.

"Who cares?" Zidane interrupted, his attention once again turning to Gilgamesh. "You've ruined our script for the last time, Gilga...wait, what was your name again?"

"Gilgamesh!" the red-hooded swordsman cried in exasperation. "It is I, the great Gilgamesh!"

"Whatever. I'm done with improvising. It's time for the finale!"

"If that is how you truly feel then enough with the expository banter! It's time we fight like men. And ladies. And...uh..."

"Men who dress like ladies?" Bartz offered helpfully, feeling that this was the proper thing to say. He didn't know where the idea came from, but for some reason it seemed to fit, regardless as to the reason why.

"Yes, indeed! And men who dress like ladies! For Gilgamesh...IT IS MORPHING TIME!"

Bartz hurriedly dropped into a crouch next to Vaan, but before any of the warriors of harmony could make the first move, the ground seemed to open up beneath Gilgamesh, sending tendrils of bluish white fog drifting into the air.

"Hey, what's going on?" Zidane asked, exchanging a confused look with Vaan.

"Not again! Curse the foul darkness of the Rift!" Gilgamesh cried, beginning to fade out.

Feeling a bit disappointed, Bartz turned to his companions and said, "It's just like what happened the last time I fought him."

"Looks like the Rift isn't done with him yet," Squall remarked, lowering his gunblade and turning his back on the fading form of Gilgamesh.

"This is only a minor setback," Gilgamesh declared, shaking his fist at them. "As expected, this journey continues to be filled with obstacles blocking my path to the ultimate duel! The Rift will not hold me forever! I shall return to finish this, Bartz!"

Bartz placed his hands on his hips, his head tilting to the side to study his 'chosen rival' curiously. "Sure, sounds like fun. Can't let my skills go to waste, can I?"

"Let us know when the Rift spits you out again," Vaan called cheerfully, raising his hand in fair well.

With another dramatic cry of 'Baaarrrrtz!' Gilgamesh disappeared, and gazing at the spot where he had stood only moments ago, Bartz said, "Nice guy. You know, I almost feel kinda sorry for him."

"I guess even the Rift wasn't a big fan of his outfit," Zidane said with dignity, his Mage Mashers disappearing in a flash of light.

Bartz slipped an arm around the Genome, and the two of them smiled at each other, their obvious bond of friendship allowing them to share a mutual moment of affection.

Tifa studied the spot where Gilgamesh had made his grand exit, and with the air of someone coming to an important conclusion, she said, "It looks better on me. So, you boys ready to go?"

"After that, definitely. Maybe I'll wake up and realize this was all just a nightmare," Zidane said hopefully, though he didn't look as if he were expecting too much in that regard. "Why did it have to be him, of all people? Hell, that outfit would have looked better even on Squall than on that big brute. At least Squall has a better figure for it."

At this, Squall cuffed Zidane roughly on the back of the head, sending the Genome stumbling into Bartz, and catching his fellow warrior by the shoulders, it took all of Bartz's willpower not to laugh.

"Ouch," Zidane groaned, rubbing his injured skull. "What was that for? Was it something I said?"

Without a word, Squall stalked off in a dangerous huff, and chuckling to herself Tifa followed after the gunblade wielding warrior, winking at Zidane as she did so.

Vaan, who had snorted loudly at Zidane's comment, hurried after Tifa, and tugging on the golden-haired thief's arm, Bartz pulled Zidane after him, getting himself tangled in the Genome's tail for his efforts. He was looking forward to indulging in that long awaited break they were promised if they managed to get through the gateway in one piece, and he was going to take advantage of it. Though Gilgamesh had been thwarted once again in his quest to partake in the greatest of legendary duels, Bartz was sure they'd see each other again.


The End